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3D Printed Carving Mount

I’ve been carving a lot more, both with the bent wood rings that I make, but also in general. For carving the rings, though, I need a stable mount to do that detailed carving work. Engravers have something like this, and they look really great. It’s basically a swiveling or ball-mounted base with a surface that you can mount the ring or other carving surface upon. The problem, is that this kind of engraver’s mount is really quite expensive, precision-engineered from heavy-duty materials. Most of the woods that I carve are no where near as hard as the metals that engravers work with. I have a 3D printer (a fine gift from my family for my birthday) and I’m pretty good with “that whole 3D thing”, so I started wondering if I could design and print my own custom mount.

So I fire up my weapon of choice, Blender and get to designing. The key specs for the mount had to be the following:

  • Support a weight (roughly 3 lbs) in the base so the mount doesn’t move.
  • Swivel or otherwise rotate in the vertical axis so I can get around a ring when mounted.
  • A mount for rings that spins in the horizontal axis and supports a wide range of ring sizes.
  • Strong enough to support me bearing down on it a bit while carving.

Using those engraver mounts as inspiration, I got my base design sorted out. When I posted it on Instagram, I got some pretty good response and feedback.

So then I got myself to the printing step. This took quite a lot of time and involved a substantial amount of trial and error. A lot of it, of course, was my own fault and inexperience. I was aiming for a pretty tight fit on some of these pieces and figured out halfway through one of the bigger prints that I was measuring incorrectly with the cheap caliper I had. That, combined with some minor shrinkage introduced by using subdivision surfaces when modeling, resulted in things not fitting and requiring reprints.

Eventually, though, I got it all sorted out and my prints finally made it. Of course, there were a few parts that I didn’t 3D print. That would be the 3-lb weight I was putting in the base, the “lazy Susan” swivel that the whole assembly sits upon (and the screws for mounting the lazy Susan), and a couple roller blade bearings that I could use for the ring mount axle. Basically, I didn’t 3D print the moving parts that needed to rotate smoothly.

With everything printed, I could proceed to assembly.

And, of course, once I had the thing put together, I couldn’t resist taking it for a spin (no pun intended… I promise) and carving on it a bit. And you know what? The friggin’ thing works! And now I have a new tool in my ring-making and carving kit. Totally stoked.

So a few notes as a bit of a post-mortem:

  • It took a while to find the right spacer to use for getting the ring on those cone-shaped chuck/mandrel things. Using a bit of reinforced HDPE tubing (and cutting a slit out to let it expand while it’s on the chuck), I was able to get that sorted it. In the future, it might be nice to support the kinds of variable ring mandrels that ringmakers use on lathes (I don’t use a lathe).
  • The rubber band is a great way to keep everything together. So glad I included a groove for it in the design.
  • I was worried that the axle wasn’t going to hold up under heavy use, but so far it seems to be fairing pretty well. If I run into problems down the road, I may want to try printing those pieces in ABS instead of PLA.
  • Eventually I should share the source files for this somewhere (probably Thingiverse). It’d be really cool to see what remixes and improvements that people come up with for it.

So yeah… I made a thing for making things. How badass is that?